A group of leading environmental organisations are taking part in an employment initiative to make the green movement more diverse.
Friends of the Earth, Client Earth, the RSPB and others will take part in a programme that aims to open up the environmental sector to young people from ethnic minority backgrounds.
Just 3.5% of those who work in the environment sector identify as from a minority, according to research by Policy Exchange. The sector has been called “too white” in the past, with the former head of Friends of the Earth Craig Bennett declaring it must escape its white middle-class ghetto.
The employment programme aims to offer 118 unemployed 16- to 24-year-olds from predominantly ethnic minority backgrounds roles in the UK’s environmental sector. These young people will be helped to find positions over the coming months, with the initial placements beginning in the next few weeks.
The aim is to place more than 150 young people in roles by the end of the year. The partners behind the employment programme Race for Nature’s Recovery said they wanted more than half of the placements to become full-time positions.
During their six-month placements the young people will be paid at least the UK living wage and be offered training and career support.
Laura Kravac, the head of programmes at Action for Conservation, one of the partners behind the scheme, said: “Our mission has always been to inspire and empower young people to become environmental leaders and advocates.
“At a time of record youth unemployment, we’re therefore delighted that this initiative will enable talented people from diverse backgrounds to access high-quality jobs that will transform the sector and make a tangible difference for them and the natural world.”
Anna Langridge, from the RSPB, said: “This gives us a great opportunity to be proactively involved in diversifying our organisation and reaching out to a younger generation.
“Like many other organisations, we are actively engaging with how we can reflect the societies we live within, ensuring we build on our engagement and relationships. Our voice and nature’s survival needs diversity, equality and inclusion to truly work. This scheme and our partnership is a step in the right direction.”
Jenny Thatcher, who manages the youth programme at Friends of the Earth, said the charity was taking on two young people initially on six month placements, with a view to offering them longer-term employment.
“The planet needs a new generation of leaders from a range of backgrounds: we won’t fix the climate crisis without them. This is why we wanted to join this scheme, to help those whose voices need to be heard get work and make a difference,” said Thatcher.
“Covid and the climate crisis are skewing the chances of a generation. Anyone already disadvantaged will only be more so now, and that’s clearly not fair. These initiatives can only go so far – the wider drivers of inequality and exclusion won’t be fixed by one organisation, or within one sector, but we are committed to doing our bit.”
Other organisations offering employment placements include the Bat Conservation Trust, Marine Conservation Society, Trees for Cities, and Wildlife and Countryside Link.
Larissa Kennedy, the president of Students Organising for Sustainability, said the environmental sector had failed to realise that climate justice and anti-racism were inextricably linked.
“Placing our initial cohort of 118 young people into these roles will be the first step towards a more inclusive, anti-racist environmental sector,” she said. “Through this scheme, we can strengthen the sector and help support the mighty effort that will be needed in the months and years ahead, in the fight for climate justice.”